- High yield potential (20 t DM/ha+), so you need less land to winter the same number of animals.
- High ME value (12-13 MJ ME/kg DM) and utilisation (typically 90%), for improved animal performance.
- Relatively low cost c/kg DM at high yields.
- Unaffected by most brassica diseases.
Fodder beet has a number of features which can benefit dairy, beef, sheep and deer farmers. Whether grazed or lifted and fed out on pasture, the potential yield, feed value, utilisation and economics of this crop stack up well in many different farm systems. Fodder beet demands good management to reach its potential, and care must be taken with animal feeding. Brassicas like kale have lower establishment costs, and can be sown on more diverse land classes. If you’re new to fodder beet, seek advice from your retailer well before sowing.
FODDER BEET TYPES
It’s important to choose the correct fodder beet variety for your feed requirements and intended use (grazing, lifting or both). Good starting points for this decision are bulb DM content, and whether the crop is only intended to be lifted.
Fodder beet can be largely divided into three groups based on these factors:
Low bulb DM% (12-15%)
Lower yield potential, usually with a high % of bulb above ground
(50%+). Only suited to grazing .
Medium-high bulb DM% (16-20%)
Higher yield potential than low DM % types, and can be grazed.
e.g. Robbos. Some can also be successfully lifted or grazed
e.g. Ribondo. Bulbs are generally 43-50% above ground.
Bulbs sit lower in the ground, generally not suitable for grazing.
Very high DM % types (e.g. Blizzard) are best for maximum yield
potential and increased storage life.
Thanks to its ability to grow a large volume of high quality, high utilisation feed that can be used from autumn to spring, fodder beet suits several different farm systems. Its high yield potential also frees up land for other uses, which is a major plus. Alternatively you can increase daily allowances for improved live weight gains. This crop provides flexible winter grazing and can also be used to extend dairy cow lactation by either grazing or lifting and feeding to stock on pasture. Successful grazing entails correct stock transition.
Sowing date is location and season dependent, but early October to late November is generally recommended, once soil temperature is consistently above 10°C. Sowing too early (< 10°C) can result in uneven germination, making spray timings difficult, as well as risking vernalisation where the plants bolt to flower in late summer. Later sowings shorten the growing season, reducing yield potential.
Tip: Fodder beet is highly sensitive to soil residues from commonly used agricultural chemicals. Before planting, check paddock history for chemicals used in the past two years, and confirm their withholding. ‘Stale seedbed’ preparation is recommended, i.e. spray paddock(s) out with glyphosate, ideally 6 weeks before planting. Paddocks can then be ploughed to remove existing plant material, and ensure no compaction issues. Cultivate to produce a fine, firm seedbed. A second non residual weed spray (e.g. glyphosate) can then be applied just prior to sowing.